Nimblewill Ground Cover for Biocontrol of Ring Nematode in Peach Orchards

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  • 1 Dept. of Horticulture, Clemson Univ., Clemson, SC 296340375.

Benefits of nimblewill (Ms = Muhlenbergia schreberi), a warm-season, perennial grass, as an orchard ground cover are: 1) it is not competitive with tree growth and 2) it reduces ring nematode (Cx = Criconemella xenoplax) soil population, even in the presence of a tree fruit host. Ms is difficult to establish in orchards in warm fruit-growing regions. In field studies, we found that Ms establishment was decreased by chemical mowing relative to seeding only. Successive years of reseeding at 22 kg seed/ha per year, mechanical mowing, and control of winter annuals gave best establishment of Ms in peach orchards. An orchard microplot study was established to evaluate effects of five Ms densities and two Ms sources on Cx population and on growth of `Redhaven'–Lovell trees (10 replications). Cx numbers were reduced hyperbolically in response to Ms density. Ms cover of 5 g dw/m2 (planted at 9 kg seed/ha) reduced Cx from 200 (control) to the accepted threshold of 50 Cx/100 cc soil. Maximum Cx reduction to 26 Cx/100 cc was obtained at 34 g dw/m2 Ms (planted at 40 kg seed/ha). Cx response to Ms density was not affected by Ms source.

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